The Long Beach Medical Center board of directors and the state Health Department argue about the hospital’s viability while tens of thousands of residents and visitors live and play in Long Beach without the benefit of access to an emergency care center in the event of sudden illness or injury.
The hospital closed when it sustained extensive damage in Hurricane Sandy last fall. Officials say the damage has been repaired and the LBMC’s urgent care facility is ready to open, but the state is blocking the reopening because of the facility’s terminal financial diagnosis.
Will the board and the state wait until someone dies before they come together and find at least a temporary solution to the critical dearth of urgent medical care on the barrier island? Will they act only after a headline-making story of a rescued swimmer who succumbs because it takes an ambulance too long to get to South Nassau Communities Hospital’s emergency room in Oceanside?
This isn’t just a Long Beach problem. The availability of the LBMC affects the entire South Shore. Absent a local hospital offering critical emergency care in Long Beach, patients are forced to find urgent, outpatient and inpatient care at hospitals in other communities. These hospitals are now being inundated with patients who would otherwise have their needs met in Long Beach. How long will SNCH, the Nassau University Medical Center and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway be able to effectively cope with the additional patients?
If LBMC needs to merge its financial operations with those of another facility in order for the state to approve its reopening, at least as an emergency-care provider, so be it. Get it done, now. Whatever negotiations need to happen must happen quickly, not after needless deaths occur. Every day that passes without a solution brings us closer to needless tragedy.